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Reviews393 them accessible to readers who do not know Spanish. Sadly, I am afraid this book would only discourage English-speaking readers from getting better acquainted with Cervantes's work. Pomona CollegeMichael McGaha The Culture ofRedemption, by Leo Bersani; 232 pp. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1990, $25.00. Leo Bersani has used a powerful metaphor, summarizing a complex set of assumptions, as the tide of this intricate work. He has brought together a farreaching set of readings of premodemist and modernist texts by authors as diverse as Baudelaire, Joyce, Bataille, and Pynchon; the shifts which he highlights within these texts illustrate either the adherence to or negation of the culture of redemption. Just what is that culture? It is the post-Kantian, post-"art-for art's sake" transferrai to art of a powerful authority to redeem experience; in this sense, art assumes a role previously assigned to religion and philosophy. But we can only surmise the historical narrative to which the metaphor of redemption alludes since Bersani never plays with or analyses it, despite its commercial and theological power. Bersani states clearly that he is not interested in pursuing questions of "genealogy," so his concerns with a particular aesthetic tradition of idealization are without historical contextualization. Again, extracting from the text, one can surmise that he is demonstrating in a particularist fashion the ways in which modernist literary texts, along with certain precursors and successors, undercut an "authorized" narrative within literary history or unconsciously submit to it. The epilogue to the book, a reading of passages in Genesis relating to Ishmael and Sarah, in the context of George Segal's sculpture, "Abraham's Farewell to Sarah," comes the closest ofany section of the book to addressing the issues of legitimacy, selfhood, culture, power, and aesthetics which the governing metaphor implies. Bersani rejects a tradition that assigns to art the power to transform "experience " or "life" by either transcendence or repression. His are materialist readings of literary texts in that Bersani implies that the phenomena of individual material experience constitute reality and that collective material experience constitutes culture. These are also post-Freudian and post-Deconstructive readings. Desire is the driving force which produces art, and "psychoanalytic realism" not "psychoanalytic idealism" should govern our understanding of the sublimation which affects the aesthetic process. The transformation of the object of desire in the aesthetic experience leads neidier to 394Philosophy and Literature mystification or transcendence, but to a shift to the self as the object of representation . Bersani rejects "humanistic criticism" with its "reparative nature of cultural symbolisation" (p. 7) because it devalues historical experience, misreads art as philosophy, reaffirms an authoritative tradition of powerful selfhood, and misrepresents the process of cultural symbolization. The textual choices and readings are intriguing, ranging from Proust juxtaposed with Melanie Klein to Malraux's La Condition humaine to Thomas Pynchon 's Gravity's Rainbow. The method owes much to Derrida and de Man. The shifts or moves of the text show a neutralization or negation of representation, idealization, or transcendence or an actualization of these forms ofredemption, in spite of the supposed scepticism of the author. The latter is most evident in the chapter, "Against Ulysses," in which Joyce, in contrast to Beckett, is seen as reaffirming cultural memories and "the enormous power of sublimation in our culture ... as the appeasement and even transcendence of anxiety" (p. 176). Given Bersani's assumptions, an observant reader may come away with the feeling that his canonic authors are Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Flaubert, Bataille, Melville, and Pynchon, and the unfortunates are Proust, Joyce, Benjamin, and Malraux. Bersani speaks of the "possibility of pursuing not an art of truth divorced from experience, but of phenomena liberated from the obsession with truth" (p. 26). This is what he values; readers who share his materialist scepticism will admire his readings. Those who do not will be troubled by his failure to address the far-ranging ontological and historical assumptions which govern his criticism. Vanderbilt UniversityPatricia A. Ward Delicate Subjects: Romanticism, Gender, and the Ethics of Understanding, by Julie Ellison; xv & 306 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992, $16.95, paper. We are stiU trying to sort out the complex legacy of romanticism. "We" here...


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pp. 393-394
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